History and development of criminology

Some Interesting Facts on Crime

1) Hot Wheels

The auto theft capital of the world is Modesto, California.


2) Deadly City

San Pedro Sula Honduras Homicide


3) Sweltering Crooks

Hot Weather Crime

4) The Old Ball And Chain

US Incarceration Rate Percentage


5) Scaredy Cats Stay Out of Trouble

Fearless Toddler

6) Feminine Instincts

Female Prisoner Percentage Rate


7) Beware Of The Wolverine State

Flint Michigan Violent Crime Rate


8) Feline Worship

Ancient Egypt Cat Death Penalty


9) Putting American Killers To Shame

Louis Garavito Murder Venezuela

10) King Scammer

Bernie Madoff Fraud Ponzi Scheme

11) We’re Getting Arrested More Often

Rate of Arrest America Stats

12) Costly ID Thieves

Identity Theft United States

13) Crime Doesn’t Pay … Very Well

Bank Robbery Average Amount Stolen


14) Mid-Sized Sedan Madness

Car Theft Honda Accord Common Grand Theft Auto

15) Pricey Parrots

Wildlife Smuggling Statistics


16) Cry More For Dear Leader

North Korea Kim Jong Il Mourn Death Prison


17) Contempt Of Congress

Daniel Sickles Insanity Defense


18) Picky Bureau

FBI Agent Acceptance Rate Statistics


19) Yikes

Hanging Legal Method Execution Washington New Hampshire


20) A Little Late

John F Kennedy Federal Crime Kill President 1965


21) Multiple-Millennia Sentence

Charles Scott Robinson Prison Sentence 1994 30000 Years

22) The Longest Stay In The Pen

Paul Geidel Prison 68 Years

23) Digital Thieves

Cyber Crime Nasdaq Visa JC Penny JetBlue


24) Cold-Blooded Crime

Antartica Crime

25) Fowl Criminal

Rooster Trial Switzerland 1474


Pretty interesting stuff, right? Clearly our criminal justice system has seen some drastic changes over the years. Utilize these tidbits of crime trivia to educate yourself on trends, and stay protected from crooks.


History and development of criminology

Recent Trends in Crimes Committed – Organized crime

An APA-sponsored event drew together high school students and social scientists to discuss criminal groups.


Monitor Staff

June 2004, Vol 35, No. 6

Print version: page 30

Why are people drawn to join organized crime? How do social scientists use their expertise to solve criminal cases? How has federal legislation changed organized crime’s nature?

About 50 high school students from the Washington, D.C., area discussed such questions with social scientists at the daylong Young Scholars Social Science Summit at APA headquarters in March. The summit, organized by APA’s Esther Katz Rosen Center for Gifted Education Policy, was the second in a series of such meetings that allow interested high schoolers to converse with social scientists about a particular social science issue. While the first summit, held last October, focused on the world’s refugees, the March summit discussed organized crime.

“The summit provides an opportunity for bright high school students to probe an issue in depth,” explains Dorothy Cantor, PsyD, president of the American Psychological Foundation (APF), which funds the summit and the center.

At the March event, the summit’s five social scientists gave students an overview of how their work relates to organized crime, and then each expert led small-group sessions to allow for in-depth learning. The panelists were:

  • Criminologist Jay S. Albanese, PhD, chief of the International Center of the federal National Institute of Justice and a fellow of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. Albanese discussed how federal laws and policies have shaped organized crime over the last century: For example, he said, Prohibition created an underground market for alcohol–and the resulting organized crime–because the law didn’t include measures to reduce demand for alcoholic drinks.
  • Geographer Phil Canter, chief statistician for the Baltimore County Police Department. Canter explained that geography is much more than place names. In fact, he uses statistical methods to solve crimes by detecting patterns in, for example, a repeat burglar’s break-ins. He and his colleagues study such data as how many days elapse between each robbery, the time of the robbery and the location of the offenses. Students in Canter’s sessions got to try their hand at solving such a crime spree: He walked them through data from a real, solved case and asked them to determine where and when they thought the repeat robber would strike next.
  • Forensic anthropologist Paul S. Sledzik,curator of the anatomical collections at the National Museum of Health and Medicine. Sledzik, who led a team that identified remains at the Pentagon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, discussed how forensic anthropologists identify the dead and determine cause and manner of death.
  • Sociologist Carmel Rosal, PhD, a research scientist employed by the federal government. Rosal discussed sociologists’ study of how environmental factors–such as the ability to find legal gainful employment–influence participation in organized crime. She explained that these factors change over time and differ across cultures.
  • Psychologist Steven Norton, PhD, a private practitioner who co-chairs the Law and Corrections Section of APA’s Div. 41 (American Psychology-Law Society) and chairs the Criminal Justice Section of Div. 18 (Psychologists in Public Service).

“There’s a lot of misperceptions about what forensic and correctional psychologists really do,” he told the students. Instead of Hollywood’s glamorized portrayal of a psychologist tailing serial killers to a final confrontation, he explained, forensic psychologists are far more likely to help inmates adjust to prison life, conduct pretrial evaluations and work to help criminals change their patterns of thinking so they don’t re-offend. Norton also addressed the potential causes of criminal behavior.

According to Norton: “Society has a polarized view of criminals. They’re viewed as either the product of evil or the product of a negative and unfair society that fosters the criminal behavior,” when the reality is most often somewhere in the middle.

After discussing such issues with Norton and the other experts in the breakout sessions, sociologist Louise Shelley, PhD, founder and director of the Transnational Crime and Corruption Center at American University, gave a keynote address on her experience in Russia, Ukraine and Georgia working to deflate organized crime and corruption. For example, she served as principal investigator on large-scale projects to thwart money-laundering in those countries.

APA organized the summit with the National Association for Gifted Children, National Council for Geographic Education, local public schools, the Consortium of Social Science Associations, the Association of American Geographers, the Smithsonian Institution and the National Association of Police Organizations.

Further Reading

For more information, visit APA’s Center for gifted education policy.

History and development of criminology

Schools of Criminology 

Criminology is the scientific study of crime, including its causes, responses by law enforcement and methods of prevention. It is a sub group of sociology, which is the scientific study of social behavior. http://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-criminology-definition-history-theories.html
Etymology of Criminology

“Criminology” is derived from the Latin crimen, which means accusation, and the transliterated Greek logia, which has come to denote “the study of,” therefore the study of crime.

Scope of Criminology

Criminology is a scientific study of the amount, forms and causes of crime and of the penal and corrective treatment of offenders. It is an empirical study, since its results are not based on theoretical assumptions, but on observations and experience. Its aims are practical, as it is expected to lead to improved methods of preventing crime and of leading offenders to a law-abiding life in the community. At present,  while we are faced with a rising tide of crime and an increasing prison population, there is a growing interest in criminological research. The two principal sources of Criminology today are Criminal Statistics and social case studies. For obvious reasons no Criminal Statistics represent the full amount of crimes committed, but they can be, in the words of an experienced statistician, a useful index of the trend of crime in general, and of certain types of offences in  particular, within a number of years. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0032258X5903200103?journalCode=pjxa

Classical School of Criminology

The classical school of criminology was developed in the eighteenth century, where classical thinking emerged in response to the cruel forms of punishment that dominated at the time. It is considered that writers such as Montesquieu and Voltaire encouraged perhaps the emergence of this new ‘classical’ thinking, by becoming involved in campaigns for more enlightened approaches to be taken towards crime and the punishment given by the justice systems at the time. Also the development of society craved new forms of legal regulation due to the fact that there needed to be predictability in the system, as technology and properties in particular needed legal protection and workers needed to be disciplined in a consistent way.
There were two main contributors to this theory of criminology and they were Jeremy Bentham and Cesare de Beccaria. They are seen as the most important enlightenment thinkers in the area of ‘classical’ thinking and are considered the founding fathers of the classical school of criminology. They both sought to reduce the harshness of eighteenth century judicial systems, even though coming from different philosophical stances.

Bentham’s contribution to ‘classical’ theory is based on the fact that he was a utilitarian, interested in the happiness and well being of the population and therefore believing that punishment, in the form of the infliction of pain, should always be justified in terms of a greater good. At the heart of Bentham’s writing was the idea that human behaviour is directed at maximising pleasure and minimising pain, (the pleasure-pain principle).Bentham believed that crime was committed on the outset, by individuals who seek to gain excitement, money, sex or anything of value to the individual.Beccaria (1764/1963: 93) stated that; ‘It is better to prevent crimes than to punish them’.

This is at the heart of the classical school of criminology. Beccaria believed that laws needed to be put into place in order to make punishments consistent and in line with the crime. He believed that crime prevention in its effectiveness is down to three main ideas, these being the certainty of the crime and how likely it is to happened, the celerity of the crime and how quickly the punishment is inflicted and also the severity of the crime, and how much pain is inflicted. Beccaria thought that the severity of the penalties given should be proportionate to the crime committed and no more than what is necessary in order to deter the offender and others from committing further crimes.

Classical thinking says that criminals make a rational choice, and choose to do criminal acts due to maximum pleasure and minimum pain. The classical school says criminals are rational, they weigh up the costs and therefore we should create deterrents which slightly outweigh what would be gained from the crime. This is the reason behind the death penalty being viewed by classical thinkers such as Beccaria and Bentham as pointless, because there would be no deterrent. However when considering manslaughter, as Bentham also believes, if the severity of the punishment should slightly outweigh the crime then surely capital punishment should be used, there doesn’t seem to be any stronger a deterrent to other criminals thinking of undertaking the same criminal behaviour, than seeing another eradicated due to their actions.

Classical thinking has had a significant impact on criminological thinking in general and perhaps a greater impact on criminal justice practise.In Europe and America the idea of punishments being appropriate to the nature of the crime has become a foundation for modern criminal justice systems.Since the introduction of the classical school of criminology and classical thinking, the use of capital punishment, torture and corporal punishment has declined. Neither Beccaria nor Bentham believed in the death penalty, apart from, Bentham argued, in the case of murder.

The second half of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries also saw the establishment and growth of the prison, as a major system of punishment, the idea and concept of prison was to take punishment away from the body and instead punish the mind and soul, and these are the keys to changing a person’s outlook and views of their criminal behaviours.Many elements of classical ideas are very useful in modern society and these show the strengths that the theory does have. Deterrence continues to underlie all judicial systems and indeed underpinned the principles of the first commissioners of Sir Robert Peel, in the creation of the Metropolitan police. Prisons are also used as major deterrents and also to try and reduce rates of crime.

However a great weakness of the classical school of criminology is, the idea stemming from classical thinking that all criminals are rational is not generalisable to the whole population nor is it entirely valid, due to the fact that there may be biological factors stopping an individual from being able to think and behave rationally. Therefore it may not be the particular choice of the individual as they may have been born that way; they may not have the ability to make a rational decision due to a mental illness such as schizophrenia. They may be disorientated or even drugged which affects the brain functioning and therefore any behaviours, resulting in an individual becoming irrational. Also, if people act due to principles of rationality and free will then why is it that the poor are predominating in the criminal justice system, classical thought doesn’t include factors of necessity in order to survive. As Jeffrey Reiman (1979) said; “the rich get richer and the poor get prison”

White and Haines (2004) said that the classical school of criminology has 3 main challenges to it. Firstly; how to make such ideas serve the interests of justice and equality when faced with a particular defendant in court. (Not all criminals appear to be acting rationally and of free will) Secondly; that for criminal justice bureaucracies such as the police, growing efficiency may not always be compatible with an emphasis on equal justice, as their gain is to decrease crime rates. Thirdly a power issue, the rationalisation of the legal system potentially means some reduction in their power, which may backfire in terms of being a deterrent.

In late 19th century the classical school came under criticism by a form of scientific criminology which emerged due to Darwin’s great works being published between 1850 and 1870, this therefore had a profound effect on scientific thought and individuals views of human behaviour.

Classicism defines the main object of study as the offence. The nature of the offender was defined as being free-willed, rational, calculating and normal. The classical thinking response to the crime was to give punishment that is proportionate to the offence.

The Positivist school of criminology however opposes this classical school of thinking, positivism states that the object of study is the offender, and that the nature of the offender is driven by biological, psychological and pathological influences. Their response to the crime is that of giving a treatment of an indeterminate length, depending on individual circumstances.

Unlike classicism, positivism views criminal behaviour as irrational and perhaps due to a problem (biological, physical or psychological) that an individual has, therefore they are partially relieved of the crime they committed.

Cesare Lombroso is related to much positivist thinking, as a psychiatrist he looked at criminals as being throwbacks to a more primitive stage of human development, he compared physical features of criminals and related them to more primitive stages of mankind and formed a prediction based on measurements of skulls and main physical features, of how certain criminals look. Lombroso’s thinking clashed with that of classical thinking, saying that criminals were born not made, and they are not rational as they reproduce thoughts similar to that of inferior humanity.

The differences between the thinking behind both the classical school of criminology and the positivist school of criminology highlight the strengths and weaknesses that are associated with both. The classical school has much less biological fact and figures backing up its views, however it has proven successful in reducing crime rates and in providing a deterrent and a way in which to successfully contain individuals who rebel against the system.

Unlike positivism which doesn’t have any form of punishment, just a form of treatment, the classical school shows criminals that they cannot behave in certain ways in order to maximise their pleasure and minimise pain if it involves breaking the law, it does this successfully because the punishment that is given is more than that of the pleasure that they would receive. Therefore as rational thinkers, individuals contemplating criminal behaviours would not do so due to the laws set in place to deter the behaviour.

However the main weakness of the classical school of criminological thinking is that it considers all criminals to be rational and make decisions by free will, but not all individuals are rational and not all their behaviours are free, as if an individual had a mental illness or a physical defect, this may totally change the way in which they act and think.

The social construction of crime has changed over time; feudal and religious influences have changed, and affected the criminological theory used.

When the Classical school developed it was in a time of major reform in penology, there were many legal reforms at the time due to the French revolution and the legal system was developed in the united states, which would have had an effect on the united kingdom making an increased effort to set laws on crime in stone.

As modernity has progressed so has the development of the judicial systems, if positivism was used as the main criminological thinking then these systems wouldn’t exist because positivism uses treatments to the criminal in order to solve crime. This could be why the classical school of criminology has been so influential and still is, because it protects various organisations set out to remove crime and it also provides a good theoretical basis on which more recent theories have been developed. 


Positivist School of Criminology

In the late nineteenth century, some of the principles on which the classical school was based began to be challenged by the emergent positivist school in criminology, led primarily by three Italian thinkers: Cesare Lombroso, Enrico Ferri, and Raffaele Garofalo. It is at this point that the term ‘criminology’ first emerged, both in the work of Italian Raffaele Garofalo (criminologia) in 1885 and in the work of French anthropologist Paul Topinard (criminologie) around the same time.
Positivist criminology assumes that criminal behaviour has its own distinct set of characteristics. As a result, most criminological research conducted within a positivist paradigm has sought to identify key differences between ‘criminals’ and ‘non-criminals’. Some theorists have focused on biological and psychological factors, locating the source of crime primarily within the individual and bringing to the fore questions of individual pathology. This approach is termed individual positivism. Other theorists – who regard crime as a consequence of social rather than individual pathology – have, by contrast, argued that more insights can be gained by studying the social context external to individuals. This approach is termed sociological positivism.

Chicago School of Criminology

The Chicago School of criminological theory aimed to move past the simple hard-line classical explanations of crime. Early theories of criminal behavior focused on the individual, touting such ideas as crime as a rational choice, born criminals, and physical features such as forehead size as predictors of crime. The Chicago School introduced the idea of socialization as an explanation for criminal activity. These theories hold that people are not simply born good or bad – they are influenced by the people, social situations, and other external forces that surround them.

Social Disorganization Theory

The main point of social disorganization theory focuses on the disproportionate amount of social and economic hardship as well as the level of criminal activity that occurs in inner cities compared to other areas. Social disorganization – the constant influx of people and businesses into inner cities combined with the highly transient environment and widespread poverty – leads to a breakdown of families, schools, and other social institutions that encourage conformity.

Along with a breakdown of positive social influences, social disorganization theory explores the negative influences that lead to delinquency and criminality. In places with a high degree of social disorganization, criminal values are far more sustainable than in areas with high social cohesion. As criminal cultures take precedent over legitimate institutions, they encourage deviant behavior among the people of the city.

Differential Association Theory

The concept of differential association is an expansion of social disorganization theory. Differential association looks at the differences in social groups – those that support criminal activity and those that counter it. These two cultures compete within the community to retain or recruit other members. Differential association holds that criminal behaviors are learned when those groups that support criminal activity are given more clout than those institutions that counter criminal activity. The difference between those people who engage in delinquency and those who conform can often be traced back to the peer groups people interact with the most.

Social Learning Theory

Social learning theory is an expansion of other Chicago School theories like differential association. The central tenet of this theory deals with learned delinquency or imitation. Consider, for example, kids who grow up observing their parents cheat on their taxes, spending time with friends who engage in delinquent behaviors, and living in a neighborhood that is poor or slummy and conducive to criminal activity. They are exposed to a constant barrage of criminal behavior during the times of their mental and emotional development. As a result, they are far more likely to imitate and repeat the types of behavior that they have been exposed to. They often start with minor juvenile offenses and can move on to greater criminal activity down the road.

In addition to the concept of imitation, social learning theory focuses on the resulting social reinforcements that respond to these delinquent behaviors. The response to delinquent activity has a strong effect on whether it continues. If early delinquent activity is rewarded with enhanced social status and the spoils of crime without sufficient negative reinforcements, the delinquency will usually continue. However, when criminality is caught early and discouraged through counseling, reduced social status, and punishment of some sort, it is likely to be curbed.

These theories are not meant to be viewed individually as absolute explanations of the causes of criminal activity. Rather, each provides a partial account of the big picture. Combining theories to devise more in-depth explanations tends to be the most accurate means of explaining both individual crimes and criminality in general. For some criminals, however, other explanations (sociopathy, neurochemical issues, etc.) will hold more accuracy than sociological theories. Still, inevitably, the Chicago School holds that it is simply inaccurate to assume rational choice and the false concept of free will are able to explain behaviors that are continually perpetrated predominantly by the socially and economically disadvantaged.

Social Structure Theories

Over time, many different theories have developed that help us understand, explain and even correct criminal behavior. By understanding what factors lead to criminal behavior, professionals in sociology, psychology, biology and criminology can make informed recommendations on such things as policy, prevention and treatment.

Three theories explained

Within the social structure theories are three subtypes that sociologists and criminologists have identified. These three theories play an important role in criminology, because they help provide a root cause for crime. In identifying a root cause, you also open the door to finding a solution to resolve the problem.

1. Social disorganization theory. The social disorganization theory directly links crime rates to neighborhood ecological characteristics. This theory places a significant amount of responsibility for criminal behavior upon an individual’s residential location. If, for example, someone grows up in a disadvantaged area where delinquency and crime is seen as acceptable, they are more likely to participate in criminal activities.

2. Strain theory. Strain theories point to certain strains or stressors as triggers for crime. When placed under strain, the negative emotions of frustration and anger can create pressure within the individual. One way they deal with that increased strain is through crime. They may use crime as a way to get revenge on someone who is causing the pressure, or they may resort to crime to alleviate financial pressure. They also may turn to illicit drugs to help offset some of the pressure.2

3. Culture conflict. The theory of culture conflict is linked to the disagreement over differences in values and beliefs. It is based on the idea that different cultures or classes cannot agree on what is acceptable behavior. For example, while the upper and middle classes work to make a living in a legal way, others may use illegal activities, such as selling drugs or stealing, as a way to make a living.3
Over time, many different theories have developed that help us understand, explain and even correct criminal behavior. By understanding what factors lead to criminal behavior, professionals in sociology, psychology, biology and criminology can make informed recommendations on such things as policy, prevention and treatment.

Definition of Symbolic Interactionism

Paradigms provide a starting place to help understand what is being witnessed in day-to-day life and in experiments. If you imagine that paradigms are like lenses in a pair of eyeglasses, there are several different lens styles worn by sociologists and symbolic interactionism is one of them.

Symbolic interactionism tends to focus on the language and symbols that help us give meaning to the experiences in our life. They notice that as we interact with the world, we change the way we behave based on the meaning we give social interactions. We spend time thinking about what we will do next and adjust our approach depending on how we believe others perceive us.

Social interactionists believe that communications and interactions form reality as we know it. Reality, in this belief, is socially constructed, or created by conversations, thoughts, and ideas. Early thinkers in this approach focused on the face-to-face experiences of individuals, though now we would likely include many more types of interactions, including the experiences we have online or through text messaging on our phones, for instance

In this view, individuals are powerful in how they shape the world and not merely victims conforming to larger societal forces. Individuals both create and shape society, and the change occurring is constant and ongoing. Social interactionists are interested in the patterns created by our interactions and how this reality makes up our very existence.

To better understand how those wearing this lens view reality, we can look at a specific example. Imagine you have a sibling with whom you have had a rivalry with your whole life. You see your sister as having always received an unfair bias, getting what she wanted more than you have. You perceive her as picking at your flaws when you interact or cutting you down in some way. All of these experiences take place through a series of communications, social situations, and thoughts you have about your sister.

History and development of criminology

Feminist School of Criminology

The feminist school of criminology emerged in the late 1960s and into the early 1970s as a result of growing discrimination and disregard for women in the field. Its development was largely related to second wave feminism movement. Feminist criminology lays emphasis on wide range of matters regarding women and crime which include laying forward theories to understand women in crime, special needs of female prisoners and women as workers in the study of crime.

Most criminologists of this school have focused on “gender ratio” in crime i.e., why women are less likely than men to commit crimes. Others have addressed the issue of “generalisation” that is whether traditional male theories can be generalised to women offenders.

The major perspectives in this field are liberal feminism which focused on the uplifment of women by giving them equal access to education, employment and politics as men. Marxist/socialist feminists who belived that women could be freed of oppressions by restructuring the capitalist economy and thirdly radical feminists who aimed to understand how women came to occupy subordinate roles in our society from the first place and to address those issues accordingly. Other branches also include psychoanalytical, post-modern and black feminism.

Freda Adler, one of the most distinguished criminologists made significant contributions in the field by putting forward the liberation theory of female criminality. The publication of her book “Sisters in crime: The rise of the new criminal” also brought a lot of attention to feminist theories.

Carol Smart’s work “ Women, Crime and Criminology” also raises the issue of how female criminality has been side-lined in the study of crime.

Studies by Giordano and Cerkovich om female prisoners also established how most of these women came from impoverished backgrounds. This helped in understanding female offenders.

All of these major contributions by feminist criminologists have made a great impact on the field. They have pointed out how gender matters in crime should not be neglected and this has helped in understanding criminology at a whole new level.

History and development of criminology

Facts about a Criminologist’s Job

Criminologist jobs provide you with an opportunity to make a difference in society. Here are a few facts about being a criminologist and what you should expect from the job.

Becoming a Criminologist

In order to become a criminologist, one will have to obtain at least a Masters degree and in some cases a doctorate. There are a few different fields that you could study including psychology, behavioral science, juvenile delinquency, and statistics. You might also be able to complete an internship with another established criminologist. This can help you land a job in the future.

Basic Tasks

Criminologists spend the majority of their time studying crimes and crime information. They are looking at psychological factors as well as social causes to try and determine the underlying reasons behind crime. Some criminologists look at general information about crime as a whole while others tend to deal with specific criminals and cases. Some criminologists will work closely with criminals in order to determine exactly what caused them to commit a crime. By gaining this information, they can try to help detect similar patterns and other at-risk individuals. The ultimate goal of the criminologists is to protect society and make sure that justice is served. Criminologists will also help criminals become functioning members of society after they have served their time. Criminologists also do research to determine whether or not a certain punishment will deter crime. They work to come up with more effective policies for dealing with criminals.

Work Schedule

In most cases, a criminologist will work approximately 40 hours per week. However, they will often have to work more than this in order to meet the demands of the job. Criminologists work in offices but will sometimes visit prisons and jails in order to interview prisoners.


An average criminologist will typically earn about $40,000 per year. Entry-level criminologists start out at about $28,000 per year, while experience criminologists can make as much as $50,000 per year.

Opportunities for Advancement

As a criminologists, you will have some opportunity for advancement. However, in order to advance, you will most likely have to get a doctorate degree and put in a fair amount of work as a criminologist. Some criminologists move on to become professors at universities. This can provide you with a way to teach others about your given field. Other criminologists eventually become police commissioners. In this way, they can use their knowledge to directly affect crime in their city. This will often be a very public role and require the ability to work with people. Some criminologists also eventually land positions as administrators of large crime prevention agencies. Many times, criminologists will also become the manager of a crime research department. Therefore, as a criminologist, you will have multiple opportunities to advance in your career.


History and development of criminology

A Case Study

Making of a Monster: Pedro Lopez

Pedro was caught by his mother having sexual relations with his sister when he was only eight. What made him sexually aware at so young an age? And why would Pedro have wanted to commit incest and have sex with his sister?

It is documented that Pedro’s mother was a prostitute and that Pedro had witnessed her bringing men home and having sex with them. This is the likely reason as to why Pedro was so sexually aware at such a young age.  In terms of why he chose his sister, this is likely to be due to opportunity more than a desire for incest.

Pedro was promised help by an older man when he became homeless. This man went on to rape him. What effect would this betrayal have had on Pedro?

Pedro was abused at a time when he was at his most vulnerable. At rock bottom, this event could have been a turning point for Pedro, influencing which direction his life was to go.  Already lacking trust in adults, the kindness of a stranger could have turned Pedro’s struggle with the world into a realisation that life is not all bad and that there is hope. Instead, Pedro’s fears about the world being dangerous were supported further, as was his conviction that for his own safety he had to go it alone.

In prison, Pedro was gang raped. He swore revenge and managed to kill three of his four attackers. Why did Pedro react with this violence? And what role did revenge play in his subsequent murders of young girls?

Pedro was fed up of being the victim and this incident in prison made something click in Pedro’s brain – he would no longer be the victim. Although he was able to release a huge amount of rage when murdering three of the prisoners who raped him, Pedro had been through a lot prior to this incident – his anger would likely need further quenching and he had learnt one way to do that – through violence and murder.  Outside the confines of the prison, however, Pedro’s victims would need to be people who were easy prey. Young girls who would go out of their way to help a stranger in need became his preferred victim.  In addition to these young girls being easy to capture, it is also possible that these murders were somehow related to his early sexual experience with his sister, an event that his mother put an end to. It is possible that Pedro was rebelling against his mother, a woman who he clearly had a great deal of anger towards, as indicated via police interviews.

He stated in an interview after his arrest that he’d lost his innocence when he was eight, and that he intended to rid as many young girls of theirs as possible. How can we understand this?

The traumatised mind makes sense out of chaos as best as it can. Pedro, traumatised from a young age, learnt in prison that he could escape those who abused him by killing them. It is likely that Pedro began to believe that in order to prevent himself from becoming a victim again, he had to remain in power the only way he had learnt how – through rape and murder.  Why he chose young girls as opposed to young boys or, indeed, grown men like those who had taken his innocence, remains unknown. However, it can be theorised that the only occasion Pedro was in control sexually, as opposed to being a victim, was when he was the instigator of sexual relations with his sister. Therefore, he sought this sexual control again and again through selecting young girls as victims.

Why was he so obsessed with innocence and why would he want to take it away from others, knowing the pain his own loss of innocence had caused him?

Pedro was so obsessed with innocence because he had lost his so young. It is likely that he longed for his own innocence back, whilst also envying the innocence of the young girls who became his victims. Why should they have the innocence he was denied?

While most people have empathy, which makes them not want others to feel the pain they have experienced, most serial killers tend to lack empathy – they cannot put themselves in another person’s shoes. Therefore, it is likely that Pedro didn’t think about the pain he would be causing these girls; his focus was on destroying the innocence that he could not have – these girls were merely ‘symbols’ of that innocence.

He never killed by night, only in the day when he could see his victims’ faces. What does this say about him? 

This again highlights Pedro’s obsession with innocence. By watching their faces, he would be able to watch their innocence disappear as their faces filled with fear and pain.

Other interesting points:

It is important to note that it was after being chucked out of the house for fondling his sister that Pedro was picked up by a man on the street and raped.  At 8-years old, young Pedro is likely to have linked his own rape with fondling his sister – drawing the conclusion that he was punished for what he had done to his sister.  His choice of victim – young girls – could have been his expression of anger towards his sister, who the adult Pedro might blame for the events he had endured as a child.


History and development of criminology


Travelling back to the times of the cage dwellers where the only solution of justice was seeking private revenge. Private revenge was a practice in which the victim or the victim’s kin retaliated for injury and the community did not interfere. This resulted to blood feud which lasted for years, carnage and loss of property which sprang the onset of setting official penalties and imposing trials on offenders in order to restrict private vengeance. For many centuries, this community trial and punishment largely was carried out in the context of religion. It was believed that criminal acts offended the gods or God and the acts of revenge like earthquakes, tsunami etc were justified, which acted as means to appease the gods for the affront committed against them by the crime.

The religious and spiritual approaches ruled the early thinking for a very long time till the emergence of the naturalistic approach to crime and punishment. The contributions of Plato (429 – 327 B.C.) and Aristotle (384–322 B.C.) set the basis for the current understanding of crime and punishment. Plato proposed that the basis of law was the prevailing social morality rather than the laws of the gods. Thus, every action against that morality constituted a crime.
Plato was among the first to theorize that crime was often the result of a poor education and that punishments for crimes should be assessed based on their degree of fault, allowing for the possibility of mitigating circumstances. Aristotle’s (384–322 B.C.) viewed, humans as a synthesis of a body and a soul, endowed with intelligence, emotion, and desire. In his Nicomachean Ethics, he defined crime as the act of free will, stimulated by desire. Thus he argued that children, idiots, the mentally ill, and individuals in a state of ecstasy should not be held responsible for criminal actions. During the 450 B.C. the Romans became the world’s most powerful legal force due to the formulation of the twelfth table ( basis of all Roman laws, public and private). The tables were secular laws, clearly different from religious or moral rules, and included some forty clauses.

The thinking about crime and punishment again took a spiritual direction during the middle ages. The notion of naturalistic thinking in Roman law was fading away due to the gaining popularity of Christianity. Crime was identified with sin, and the state claimed that it was acting in the place of God when it inflicted these horrible punishments. Justice with religious and spiritual basis was implanted with the political and social organization which embarked the beginning of criminal justice system. The feudal lords instituted official methods by which God could indicate who was innocent and who was guilty. For example, a common method of determining whether a woman was a witch was to tie her up and throw her into the water, also other forms of ordeals involved running the gauntlet and walking on fire. St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274 B.C.) condemned trial by ordeal and proposed the idea of compurgation. The idea was that no one would lie under oath for fear of being punished by God. Compurgation ultimately evolved into testimony under oath and trial by jury.

The end of middle ages marked the beginning of the period of renaissance where the modem search for natural explanations of the phenomenon called crime was initiated. Prominent contributions in this era were made by ‘Social Contract’ writers. Thomas Hobbes (1588–1678 A.D.) a social contract writer replaced Aquinas theory and proposed that people naturally pursue their own interests without caring whether they hurt anyone else. “social contract”—something like a peace treaty when everyone is exhausted from the war of each against all. But the social contract needs an enforcement mechanism to prevent people from cheating. According to Hobbes, that is the role of the state: Everyone who agrees to the social contract also agrees to grant the state the right to use force to maintain the contract. Montesquieu (1689–1755) insisted that prevention of crime was better than punishment of the criminal, and that punishment merely for its own sake was evil in his book ‘The spirit of laws’. Rousseau was convinced that the institution of property, with the resulting poverty among some groups, caused most criminality. He strongly opposed the existing criminal justice system, which assumed that crime reflected the influence of the devil, declaring instead that humans are basically good and that only untenable social conditions transform them into criminals. Utopian writers took a position similar to Rousseau’s—that humans are basically good and that this basic goodness would emerge under the proper social conditions. This is how criminology gained importance as an independent field over the years.

History and development of criminology

Differences and Similarities between Male and Female Criminals

Gender is the single best predictor of criminal behavior: men commit more crime, and women commit less. This distinction holds throughout history, for all societies, for all groups, and for nearly every crime category. The universality of this fact is really quite remarkable, even though many tend to take it for granted.

Most efforts to understand crime have focused on male crime, since men have greater involvement in criminal behavior. Yet it is equally important to understand female crime. For example, learning why women commit less crime than men can help illuminate the underlying causes of crime and how it might better be controlled.

Comparisons of criminal behavior between different groups—such as men and women—use data from a variety of sources. One of the most widely used sources is arrest data from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), collected from the nation’s law enforcement agencies and tabulated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.). Other sources include surveys of victimization experiences, such as the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Vicitimization Survey (NCVS); surveys of self-reported offending behavior, such as the National Youth Survey (Elliot and Ageton); and case studies based on autobiographical accounts or interviews with and observation of individual offenders and gangs. The discussion starts with a consideration of what can be learned from arrest data, and then briefly touches on the insights to be gained from other sources. Any comparison of male and female criminality must acknowledge important similarities as well as differences.



Females have lower arrest rates than males for virtually all crime categories except prostitution. This is true in all countries for which data are available. It is true for all racial and ethnic groups, and for every historical period. In the United States, women constitute less than 20 percent of arrests for most crime categories.

Females have even lower representation than males do in serious crime categories. Since the 1960s in the United States, the extent of female arrests has generally been less than 15 percent for homicide and aggravated assault, and less than 10 percent for the serious property crimes of burglary and robbery.

Aside from prostitution, female representation has been greatest for minor property crimes such as larceny-theft, fraud, forgery, and embezzlement. Female arrests for these crime categories has been as high as 30 to 40 percent, especially since the mid-1970s. The thefts and frauds committed by women typically involve shoplifting (larceny-theft), “bad checks” (forgery or fraud), and welfare and credit fraud—all compatible with traditional female consumer/domestic roles.

Trends in female crime relative to male crime are more complex. Some writers claim that female crime has been increasing faster than male crime, as measured by the percentage of female arrests. This has clearly been true in the case of minor property crimes, where the percentage of female arrests had about doubled between 1960 and 1975 (from around 15 to 30 percent or more), with slight additional increases since then. Smaller but fairly consistent increases are also found for substance abuse categories, but they remain less than 20 percent for all categories. The same can be said of major property crimes (which remain less than 10 to 15%). However, the percentage of female arrests has declined for other categories like homicide and prostitution; and it has fluctuated for still other categories such as aggravated assault and druglaw violations (see Steffensmeier, 1993, for a review of trends and explanations).

The patterns just described are corroborated by other sources of data. The National Crime Victimization Survey asks victims about the gender of offenders in crimes where the offender is seen. The percentage of female offenders reported by victims is very similar to (or lower than) the female percentage of arrests for comparable categories. Self-report studies also confirm the UCR patterns of relatively low female involvement in serious offenses and greater involvement in the less serious categories.

From a variety of sources, it is clear that females are less involved in serious offense categories, and they commit less harm. Women’s acts of violence, compared to those of men, result in fewer injuries and less serious injuries. Their property crimes usually involve less monetary loss or less property damage.

Females are less likely than males to become repeat offenders. Long-term careers in crime are very rare among women. Some pursue relatively brief careers (in relation to male criminal careers) in prostitution, drug offenses, or minor property crimes like shoplifting or check forging.

Female offenders, more often than males, operate solo. When women do become involved with others in offenses, the group is likely to be small and relatively nonpermanent. Furthermore, women in group operations are generally accomplices to males (see Steffensmeier, 1983, for a review). And males are overwhelmingly dominant in the more organized and highly lucrative crimes, whether based in the underworld or the “upperworld.”

Females are far less likely than males to become involved in delinquent gangs. This distinction is consistent with the tendency for females to operate alone and for males to dominate gangs and criminal subcultures. At the onset of the twenty-first century, female gang involvement was described as a sort of “auxiliary” to a male gang. By the 1980s and 1990s, gang studies found somewhat increased involvement on the part of girls (perhaps 15%), including some allfemale gangs. Regardless, female gang violence has remained far less common than male gang violence.

The criminal justice system’s greater “leniency” and “chivalry” toward females may explain a portion of the lower official offending rates of women in comparison to men. Likewise, the justice system’s tendency to be relatively less lenient and chivalrous toward females today may help explain recent increases in levels of female arrests. Although there appear to be relatively small differences between adult women and men in likelihood of arrest or conviction, women defendants do appear to have a lower probability of being jailed or imprisoned. This difference appears to be related to a variety of factors: pregnancy, responsibilities for small children, the greater likelihood to demonstrate remorse, as well as perceptions that women are less dangerous and more amenable to rehabilitation (Daly; Steffensmeier, Ulmer, and Kramer).



Both males and females have low rates of arrest for serious crimes like homicide or robbery; and high rates of arrest for petty property crimes like larceny-theft, or public order offenses such as alcohol and drug offenses or disorderly conduct. In general, women tend to have relatively high arrest rates in most of the same crime categories for which men have high arrest rates. For example, rates of homicide are small for both sexes (about 17 offenders for every 100,000 males, about 2 offenders per 100,000 females), as compared to larceny rates, which measure about 800 offenders per 100,000 males and 380 offenders per 100,000 females.

Male and female arrest trends over time or across groups or geographic regions are similar. That is, decades or groups or regions that have high (or low) rates of male crime tend to also have high (or low) rates of female crime. For example, in the second half of the twentieth century, the rates of arrest for larceny-theft increased dramatically for both men and women; and declined even more dramatically for both men and women in the category of public drunkenness. Similarly, states or cities or countries that have higher than average arrest rates for men also have higher arrest rates for women (Steffensmeier, 1993; Steffensmeier, Allan, and Streifel).

Male and female offenders have similar age-crime distributions, although male levels of offending are always higher than female levels at every age and for virtually all offenses. The female-to-male ratio remains fairly constant across the life span (Steffensmeier and Streifel, 1991). The major exception to this age-by-gender pattern is for prostitution, where the age-curve for females displays a much greater concentration of arrests among the young, compared to an older age-curve for males. A variety of factors account for this difference. For example, males arrested under a solicitation of prostitution charge may be men old enough to have acquired the power to be pimps or the money to be customers—men who often put a premium upon obtaining young females. The younger and more peaked female age curve clearly reflects differing opportunity structures for crimes relating to prostitution. Older women become less able to market sexual services, whereas older men can continue to purchase sexual services from young females or from young males. The earlier physical maturity of adolescent females also contributes to their dating and associating with older male delinquent peers.

Female offenders, like male offenders, tend to come from backgrounds marked by poverty, discrimination, poor schooling, and other disadvantages. However, women who commit crime are somewhat more likely than men to have been abused physically, psychologically, or sexually, both in childhood and as adults.

<a href=”http://law.jrank.org/pages/1249/Gender-Crime-Similarities-in-male-female-offending-rates-patterns.html”>Gender and Crime – Similarities In Male And Female Offending Rates And Patterns</a>

History and development of criminology

Psychological Theories of Criminology


Why do individuals commit crimes? At the same time, why is crime present in our society? The criminal justice system is very concerned with these questions, and criminologists are attempting to answer them. In actuality, the question of why crime is committed is very difficult to answer. However, for centuries, people have been searching for answers (Jacoby, 2004). It is important to recognize that there are many different explanations as to why individuals commit crime (Conklin, 2007). One of the main explanations is based on psychological theories, which focus on the association among intelligence, personality, learning, and criminal behavior. Thus, in any discussion concerning crime causation, one must contemplate psychological theories.

When examining psychological theories of crime, one must be cognizant of the three major theories. The first is psychodynamic theory, which is centered on the notion that an individual’s early childhood experience influences his or her likelihood for committing future crimes. The second is behavioral theory. Behavioral theorists have expanded the work of Gabriel Tarde through behavior modeling and social learning. The third is cognitive theory, the major premise of which suggests that an individual’s perception and how it is manifested (Jacoby, 2004) affect his or her potential to commit crime. In other words, behavioral theory focuses on how an individual’s perception of the world influences his or her behavior.

Also germane to psychological theories are personality and intelligence. Combined, these five theories or characteristics (i.e., psychodynamic, cognitive, behavioral, personality, and intelligence) offer appealing insights into why an individual may commit a crime (Schmalleger, 2008). However, one should not assume this there is only one reason why a person commits crime. Researchers looking for a single explanation should be cautious, because there is no panacea for the problem of crime.

Psychodynamic Theory

Proponents of psychodynamic theory suggest that an individual’s personality is controlled by unconscious mental processes that are grounded in early childhood. This theory was originated by Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), the founder of psychoanalysis. Imperative to this theory are the three elements or structures that make up the human personality: (1) the id, (2), the ego, and (3) the superego. One can think of the id is as the primitive part of a person’s mental makeup that is present at birth. Freud (1933) believed the id represents the unconsPsychological Theories of Crimecious biological drives for food, sex, and other necessities over the life span. Most important is the idea that the id is concerned with instant pleasure or gratification while disregarding concern for others. This is known as the pleasure principle, and it is often paramount when discussing criminal behavior. All too often, one sees news stories and studies about criminal offenders who have no concern for anyone but themselves. Is it possiblethat these male and female offenders are driven by instant gratification? The second element of the human personality is the ego, which is thought to develop early in a person’s life. For example, when children learn that their wishes cannot be gratified instantaneously, they often throw a tantrum. Freud (1933) suggested that the ego compensates for the demands of the id by guiding an individual’s actions or behaviors to keep him or her within the boundaries of society. The ego is guided by the reality principle. The third element of personality, the superego, develops as a person incorporates the moral standards and values of the community; parents; and significant others, such as friends and clergy members. The focus of the superego is morality. The superego serves to pass judgment on the behavior and actions of individuals (Freud, 1933). The ego mediates between the id’s desire for instant gratification and the strict morality of the superego. One can assume that young adults as well as adults understand right from wrong. However, when a crime is committed, advocates of psychodynamic theory would suggest that an individual committed a crime because he or she has an underdeveloped superego.

In sum, psychodynamic theory suggests that criminal offenders are frustrated and aggravated. They are constantly drawn to past events that occurred in their early childhood. Because of a negligent, unhappy, or miserable childhood, which is most often characterized by a lack of love and/or nurturing, a criminal offender has a weak (or absent) ego. Most important, research suggests that having a weak ego is linked with poor or absence of social etiquette, immaturity, and dependence on others. Research further suggests that individuals with weak egos may be more likely to engage in drug abuse.

Mental Disorders and Crime

Within the psychodynamic theory of crime are mood disorders. Criminal offenders may have a number of mood disorders that are ultimately manifested as depression, rage, narcissism, and social isolation. One example of a disorder found in children is conduct disorder. Children with conduct disorder have difficulty following rules and behaving in socially acceptable ways (Boccaccini, Murrie, Clark, & Comell, 2008). Conduct disorders are ultimately manifested as a group of behavioral and emotional problems in young adults. It is important to note that children diagnosed with conduct disorder are viewed by adults, other children, and agencies of the state as “trouble,” “bad,” “delinquent,” or even “mentally ill.” It is important to inquire as to why some children develop conduct disorder and others do not. There are many possible explanations; some of the most prominent include child abuse, brain damage, genetics, poor school performance, and a traumatic event.

Children with conduct disorder are more likely to exhibit aggressive behaviors toward others (Boccaccini et al., 2008), and they may be cruel to animals. Other manifestations include bullying; intimidation; fear; initiating fights; and using a weapon, such as a gun, a knife, a box cutter, rocks, a broken bottle, a golf club, or a baseball bat. Adolescents with conduct disorder could also force someone into unwanted sexual activity. Property damage may also be a concern; one may observe these children starting fires with the ultimate intent to destruct property or even kill someone. Other unacceptable behaviors associated with conduct disorder include lying and stealing, breaking into an individual’s house or an unoccupied building or car, lying to obtain desirable goods, avoiding obligations, and taking possessions from individuals or stores. Last, children with conduct disorder are more likely to violate curfews despite their parents’ desires. These children also are more likely to run away from home and to be late for or truant from school. There is no question that children who exhibit the above-mentioned behaviors must receive a medical and psychological examination. It is important to note that many children with conduct disorder could very well have another existing condition, such as anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, drug or alcohol abuse, or attention deficit disorder (Siegal, 2008). It is important to recognize that children with conduct disorder are likely to have continuing, long-lasting problems if they do not receive treatment at the earliest onset. Without treatment, these children will not be able to become accustomed to the demands of adulthood and will continue to have problems and issues with a variety of relationships and even with finding and maintaining a job or occupation. Treatment of children with conduct disorder is often considered complex and exigent. It is rarely brief, because establishing new attitudes and behavior patterns takes time. As mentioned previously, early treatment offers a child a greater probability for improvement and for ultimately living a productive and successful life. An important component for the medical doctor or psychological clinician to consider is convincing the child to develop a good attitude, learn to cooperate, trust others, and eliminate fear in their lives. Behavior therapy and psychotherapy may be necessary to help the child learn how to control and express anger. Moreover, special education classes may be required for children with learning disabilities. In some cases, treatment may include prescribed medication, although medicine would ideally be reserved for children experiencing problems with depression, attention, or spontaneity/impulsivity. (For more information on conduct disorder, see http://www.aacap.org/.)

A second example of a disorder found in children is oppositional defiant disorder (Siegal, 2008). This is most often diagnosed in childhood. Manifestations or characterizations of oppositional defiant disorder include defiance; uncooperativeness; irritability; a very negative attitude; a tendency to lose one’s temper; and exhibiting deliberately annoying behaviors toward peers, parents, teachers, and other authority figures, such as police officers (Siegal, 2008). There is no known cause of oppositional defiant disorder; however, there are two primary theories that attempt to explain its development. One theory suggests that problems begin in children as early as the toddler years. It is important to note that adolescents and small children who develop oppositional defiant disorder may have experienced a difficult time developing independent or autonomous skills and learning to separate from their primary caretaker or attachment figure. In essence, the bad attitudes that are characteristic of oppositional defiant disorder are viewed as a continuation of developmental issues that were not resolved during the early toddler years.

The second theory to explain oppositional defiant disorder focuses on learning. This theory suggests the negative characteristics of oppositional defiant disorder are learned attitudes that demonstrate the effects of negative reinforcement used by parents or persons in authority (Siegal, 2009). It is important to recognize that the majority of symptoms observed in adolescents and children with oppositional defiant disorder also occur, at times, in children without this disorder. Relevant examples include a child who is hungry, tired, troubled, or disobeys/argues with his or her parent. It is important to note that adolescents and children with oppositional defiant disorder often exhibit symptoms that hinder the learning process, lead to poor adjustment in school, and most likely hurt the child’s relationships with others. Some of the symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder include frequent temper tantrums, excessive arguments with adults, refusal to comply with adult requests, questioning rules, refusing to follow rules, engaging in behavior intended to annoy or upset others, blaming others for one’s misbehaviors or mistakes, being easily annoyed by others, frequently having an angry attitude, speaking harshly or unkindly, and deliberately behaving in ways that seek revenge.

In regard to diagnosis, it is often teachers and parents who identify the child or adolescent with oppositional defiant disorder. However, children must be taken to a qualified medical doctor and/or mental health professional who will make an official diagnosis. Doctors will inquire into the history of the child’s behavior, which includes the perspective of all interested parties (i.e., parents and teachers) and will verify the results of any previous clinical observations of the child’s behavior. Psychological testing also may assist in assigning a diagnosis. As always, early detection and treatment are desirable. Actually, early treatment can often prevent future problems.

Oppositional defiant disorder may exist alongside other mental health problems, including mood and anxiety disorders, conduct disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Treatment for children and adolescents with oppositional defiant disorder will be determined by a physician who considers the child’s age, overall health, and medical history. The physician also considers the extent or totality of a child’s symptoms, the child’s tolerance for certain medications or therapies, expectations for the course of the condition, and the opinion or preference of the caretaker or parent. Most important, treatment could include psychotherapy that teaches problem-solving skills, communication skills, impulse control, and anger management skills. Treatment may also be in the form of family therapy. Here, the approach is focused on making changes within the family system with the desired goal of improved family interaction and communication skills. Peer group therapy, which is focused on developing social skills and interpersonal skills, also is an option. The last and least desirable treatment option is medication. (For more information on oppositional defiant disorder, see http://www.aacap.org/.)

Mental Illness and Crime

The most serious forms of personality disturbance will result in mental disorders. The most serious mental disturbances are referred to as psychoses (Siegal, 2008). Examples of mental health disorders include bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Bipolar disorder is marked by extreme highs and lows; the person alternates between excited, assertive, and loud behavior and lethargic, listless, and melancholic behavior. A second mental health disturbance is schizophrenia. Schizophrenic individuals often exhibit illogical and incoherent thought processes, and they often lack insight into their behavior and do not understand reality. A person with paranoid schizophrenia also experiences complex behavior delusions that involve wrongdoing or persecution (Jacoby, 2004). Individuals with paranoid schizophrenia often believe everyone is out to get them. It is important to note that research shows that female offenders appear to have a higher probability of serious mental health symptoms than male offenders. These include symptoms of schizophrenia, paranoia, and obsessive behaviors. At the same time, studies of males accused of murder have found that three quarters could be classified as having some form of mental illness. Another interesting fact is that individuals who have been diagnosed with a mental illness are more likely to be arrested, and they appear in court at a disproportionate rate. Last, research suggests that delinquent children have a higher rate of clinical mental disorders compared with adolescents in the general population (Siegal, 2008).

Behavioral Theory

The second major psychological theory is behaviorism. This theory maintains that human behavior is developed through learning experiences. The hallmark of behavioral theory is the notion that people alter or change their behavior according to the reactions this behavior elicits in other people (Bandura, 1978). In an ideal situation, behavior is supported by rewards and extinguished by negative reactions or punishments. Behaviorists view crimes as learned responses to life’s situations. Social learning theory, which is a branch of behavior theory, is the most relevant to criminology. The most prominent social learning theorist is Albert Bandura (1978). Bandura maintains that individuals are not born with an innate ability to act violently. He suggested that, in contrast, violence and aggression are learned through a process of behavior modeling (Bandura, 1977). In other words, children learn violence through the observation of others. Aggressive acts are modeled after three primary sources: (1) family interaction, (2) environmental experiences, and (3) the mass media. Research on family interaction demonstrates that children who are aggressive are more likely to have been brought up by parents or caretakers who are aggressive (Jacoby, 2004).

The second source of behavioral problems, environmental experiences, suggests that individuals who reside in areas that are crime prone are more likely to display aggressive behavior than those who reside in low-crime areas (Shelden, 2006). One could argue that high-crime areas are without norms, rules, and customs (Bohm, 2001). Furthermore, there is an absence of conventional behavior. Manifestations of unconventional behavior include the inability to gain employment; drug or alcohol abuse; and failure to obey the local, state, and federal laws. Most important, individuals who adhere to conventional behavior are invested in society and committed to a goal or belief system. They are involved in schools or extracurricular activities, such as football, baseball, or Girl Scouts, and often they have an attachment to family (Kraska, 2004).

The third source of behavioral problems are the mass media. It is difficult to discern the ultimate role of the media in regard to crime. Scholars have suggested that films, video games, and television shows that depict violence are harmful to children. Ultimately, social learning theories beckon us to accept the fact that the mass media are responsible for a great deal of the violence in our society. They hypothesize that children who play violent video games and later inflict physical or psychological damage to someone at school did so because of the influence of the video game. Important to note that in the above-mentioned media outlets (e.g., video games), violence is often acceptable and even celebrated. Moreover, there are no consequences for the actions of the major players. Professional athletes provide an interesting example of misbehavior without significant consequences. Over the last 50 years, there have been many documented cases of professional athletes who engaged in inappropriate behavior on and off the field. These cases have important implications for the children who observe this behavior. Thus, when a 10-year-old amateur athlete imitates behavior that he has learned by observing professional sports figures, whom does society blame or punish? Substantiating the relationship between the media and violence is the fact that many studies suggest that media violence enables or allows aggressive children or adolescents to justify or rationalize their behavior. Furthermore, consistent media violence desensitizes children and adolescents. A person could argue that viewing 10,000 homicides on television over a 10-year period prevents (i.e., desensitizes) an individual from adjusting to the appropriate psychological response. Thus, when the local news reports about a homicide, does the child or adolescent respond with sorrow or indifference (Jacoby, 2004)? When searching for stimuli that foster violent acts, social learning theorists suggest that an individual is likely to inflict harm when he or she is subject to a violent assault, verbal heckling or insults, disparagement, and the inability to achieve his or her goals and aspirations (Siegal, 2009).

Cognitive Theory

A third major psychological theory is cognitive theory. In recent years, significant gains have been made in explaining criminal behavior within the cognitive theory framework. Here, psychologists focus on the mental processes of individuals. More important, cognitive theorists attempt to understand how criminal offenders perceive and mentally represent the world around them (Knepper, 2001). Germane to cognitive theory is how individuals solve problems. Two prominent pioneering 19th-century psychologists are Wilhelm Wundt and William James. Two subdisciplines of cognitive theory are worthy of discussion. The first subdiscipline is the moral development branch, the focus of which is understanding how people morally represent and reason about the world. The second subdiscipline is information processing. Here, researchers focus on the way people acquire, retain, and retrieve information (Siegal, 2009). Ultimately, scholars are concerned with the process of those three stages (i.e., acquisition, retention, and retrieval). One theory within the cognitive framework focuses on moral and intellectual development. Jean Piaget (1896–1980) hypothesized that the individual reasoning process is developed in an orderly fashion. Thus, from birth onward an individual will continue to develop. Another pioneer of cognitive theory is Lawrence Kohlberg (1927–1987), who applied the concept of moral development to criminological theory. Kohlberg (1984) believed that individuals pass through stages of moral development. Most important to his theory is the notion that there are levels, stages, and social orientation. The three levels are Level I, preconventional; Level II, conventional; and Level III, postconventional. With respect to the different stages, Stages 1 and 2 fall under Level I. Stages 3 and 4 fall under Level II, and Stages 5 and 6 fall under Level III.

Stage 1 is concerned about obedience and punishment. This level is most often found at the grade levels of kindergarten through fifth grade. During this stage, individuals conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with socially acceptable norms (Kohlberg, 1984). This conforming behavior is attributed to authority figures such as parents, teachers, or the school principal. Ultimately, this obedience is compelled by the threat or application of punishment. Stage 2 is characterized by individualism, instrumentalism, and exchange. Ultimately, the characterization suggests that individuals seek to fulfill their own interests and recognize that others should do the same. This stage maintains that the right behavior means acting in one’s own best interests (Kohlberg, 1984).

The conventional level of moral reasoning is often found in young adults or adults. It is believed that individuals who reason in a conventional way are more likely to judge the morality of actions by comparing those actions to societal viewpoints and expectations (Kohlberg, 1984). The third and fourth stages fall under this level of development. In Stage 3, the individual recognizes that he or she is now a member of society. Coinciding with this is the understanding of the roles that one plays. An important concept within this stage is the idea that individuals are interested in whether or not other people approve or disapprove of them (Kohlberg, 1984). For example, if you are an attorney, what role does society expect you to play? Tangentially, what role does the clergy hold in society? It is important to note that perception is germane to this stage as well. Ultimately, the literature suggests this is where a “good” boy and girl attempts to ascertain his or her standing or role within society. With respect to stage four, the premise is based on law and order. In this stage, individuals recognize the importance of laws, rules, and customs. This is important because in order to properly function in society, one must obey and recognize the social pillars of society. Ultimately, individuals must recognize the significance of right and wrong. Obviously, a society without laws and punishments leads to chaos. In contrast, if an individual who breaks the law is punished, others would recognize that and exhibit obedience. Kohlberg (1984) suggested that the majority of individuals in our society remain at this stage, in which morality is driven by outside forces.

Stages 5 and 6 exist at the postconventional level. Stage 5 is referred to as the social contract. Here, individuals are concerned with the moral worth of societal rules and values, but only insofar as they are related to or consistent with the basic values of liberty, the welfare of humanity, and human rights. Fundamental terms associated with this stage are majority decision and compromise. Stage 6 is often termed principled conscience. This stage is characterized by universal principles of justice and respect for human autonomy. Most important to criminal justice and criminology is the notion that laws are valid only if they are based on or grounded in justice. It is important to recognize that justice is subjective. Thus, Kohlberg argued that the quest for justice would ultimately call for disobeying unjust laws. He suggested that individuals could progress through the six stages in a chronological fashion. Important for criminology is that Kohlberg suggested that criminals are significantly lower in their moral judgment development.

The next subdiscipline is the information-processing branch. This area is predicated on the notion that people use information to understand their environment. When an individual makes a decision, he or she engages in a sequence of cognitive thought processes. To illustrate, individuals experience an event and encode or store the relevant information so it can be retrieved and interpreted at a later date (Conklin, 2007). Second, these individuals search for the appropriate response, and then they determine the appropriate action. Last, they must act on their decision. There are some vital findings regarding this process. First, individuals who use information properly are more likely to avoid delinquent or criminal behavior (Shelden, 2006). Second, those who are conditioned to make reasoned judgments when faced with emotional events are more likely to avoid antisocial behavioral decisions (Siegal, 2008). Interestingly, an explanation for flawed reasoning is that the individual may be relying on a faulty cognitive process; specifically, he or she may be following a mental script that was learned in childhood (Jacoby, 2004).A second reason that may account for flawed reasoning is prolonged exposure to violence. A third possibility of faulty reasoning is oversensitivity or rejection by parents or peers. Contemplating the consequences of long-lasting rejection or dismissal is likely to produce damage to an individual’s self-esteem. Research has demonstrated that individuals who use violence as a coping mechanism are substantially more likely to exhibit other problems, such as alcohol and drug dependency (Piquero & Mazarolle, 2001).

Personality and Crime

Personality can be defined as something that makes us what we are and also that which makes us different from others (Clark, Boccaccini, Caillouet, & Chaplin, 2007). Ideally, personality is stable over time. Examinations of the relationship between personality and crime have often yielded inconsistent results. One of the most well-known theories of personality used to examine this relationship is the Big Five model of personality. This model provides a vigorous structure into which most personality characteristics can be categorized. This model suggests that five domains account for individual differences in personality: (1) Neuroticism, (2) Extraversion, (3) Openness, (4) Agreeableness, and (5) Conscientiousness (Clark et al., 2007). Neuroticism involves emotional stability. Individuals who score high on this domain often demonstrate anger and sadness and have irrational ideas, uncontrollable impulses, and anxiety. In contrast, persons who score low on Neuroticism are often described by others as even tempered, calm, and relaxed.

The second domain, Extraversion, is characterized by sociability, excitement, and stimulation. Individuals who score high on Extraversion (extraverts) are often very active, talkative, and assertive. They also are more optimistic toward the future. In contrast, introverts are often characterized by being reserved, independent, and shy (Clark et al., 2007).

The third domain is Openness, referring to individuals who have an active imagination, find pleasure in beauty, are attentive to their inner feelings, have a preference for variety, and are intellectually curious. Individuals who score high on Openness are willing to entertain unique or novel ideas, maintain unconventional values, and experience positive and negative emotions more so than individuals who are closed-minded. In contrast, persons who score low in Openness often prefer the familiar, behave in conventional manners, and have a conservative viewpoint (Clark et al., 2007).

The fourth domain is Agreeableness. This domain is related to interpersonal tendencies. Individuals who score high on this domain are considered warm, altruistic, softhearted, forgiving, sympathetic, and trusting. In contrast, those who are not agreeable are described as hard-hearted, intolerant, impatient, and argumentative.

Conscientiousness, the fifth domain, focuses on a person’s ability to control impulses and exercise self-control. Individuals who score high on Conscientiousness are described as organized, thorough, efficient, determined, and strong willed. In addition, those who are conscientious are more likely to achieve high academic and occupational desires. In contrast, people who score low on this domain are thought to be careless, lazy, and more likely assign fault to others than to accept blame themselves (Clark et al., 2007).

One personality study discovered that the personality traits of hostility, impulsivity, and narcissism are correlated with delinquent and criminal behavior. Furthermore, research conducted by Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck during the 1930s and 1940s identified a number of personality traits that were characteristic of antisocial youth (Schmalleger, 2008). Another important figure who examined the criminal personality is Hans Eysenck (1916–1997). Eysenck identified two antisocial personality traits: (1) extraversion and (2) neuroticism. Eysenck suggested that individuals who score at the ends of either domain of extraversion and neuroticism are more likely to be self-destructive and criminal (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1985). Moreover, neuroticism is associated with self-destructive behavior (e.g., abusing drugs and alcohol and committing crimes).

Psychopathic Personality

Antisocial personality, psychopathy, or sociopath are terms used interchangeably (Siegal, 2009). Sociopaths are often a product of a destructive home environment. Psychopaths are a product of a defect or aberration within themselves. The antisocial personality is characterized by low levels of guilt, superficial charm, above-average intelligence, persistent violations of the rights of others, an incapacity to form enduring relationships, impulsivity, risk taking, egocentricity, manipulativeness, forcefulness and cold-heartedness, and shallow emotions (Jacoby, 2004). The origin may include traumatic socialization, neurological disorder, and brain abnormality (Siegal, 2008). Interestingly, if an individual suffers from low levels of arousal as measured by a neurological examination, he or she may engage in thrill seeking or high-risk behaviors such as crime to offset their low arousal level. Other dynamics that may contribute to the psychopathic personality is a parent with pathologic tendencies, childhood traumatic events, or inconsistent discipline. It is important to note that many chronic offenders are sociopaths. Thus, if personality traits can predict crime and violence, then one could assume that the root cause of crime is found in the forces that influence human development at an early stage of life (Siegal, 2008).

Intelligence and Crime

Criminologists have suggested for centuries that there exists a link between intelligence and crime (Dabney, 2004). Some common beliefs are that criminals and delinquents possess low intelligence and that this low intelligence causes criminality. As criminological research has advanced, scholars have continued to suggest that the Holy Grail is causality. The ability to predict criminals from noncriminals is the ultimate goal. The ideology or concept of IQ and crime has crystallized into the nature-versus-nurture debate (Jacoby, 2004).

The nature-versus-nurture debate is a psychological argument that is related to whether the environment or heredity impacts the psychological development of individuals (Messner & Rosenfield, 2007). Science recognizes that we share our parents’ DNA. To illustrate, some people have short fingers like their mother and brown eyes like their father. However, the question remains: Where do individuals get their love of sports, literature, and humor? The nature-versus-nurture debate addresses this issue. With respect to the nature side, research on the prison population has consistently shown that inmates typically score low on IQ tests (Schmalleger, 2008). In the early decades of the 20th century, researchers administered IQ tests to delinquent male children. The results indicated that close to 40% had below-average intelligence (Siegal, 2008). On the basis of these data and other studies, some scholars argue that the role of nature is prevalent. However, can researchers assume a priori that heredity determines IQ, which in turn influences an individual’s criminal behavior? One criticism of this perspective is the failure to account for free will. Many individuals in our society believe in the ability to make choices. Last, there are many individuals who have a low IQ but refrain from committing crime.

With respect to nurture theory, advocates ground themselves on the premise that intelligence is not inherited. There is some recognition of the role of heredity; however, emphasis is placed on the role of society (i.e., environment). To demonstrate, parents are a major influence on their children’s behavior. At an early age, parents read books; play music; and engage their children in art, museum, and sporting events. Some parents spend no quality time with their children, and these children are believed to perform poorly on intelligence test. Other groups important in a child’s nurturing are friends, relatives, and teachers. Ultimately, the child who has no friends or relatives and drops out of school is destined for difficult times. Research has demonstrated that the more education a person has, the higher his or her IQ.

The nature-versus-nurture debate will continue. The debate has peaks and valleys. For years, the debate subsides, and this is followed by years of scrutiny and a great deal of attention. One of two major studies that highlighted this debate was conducted by Travis Hirschi and Michael Hindelang (1977). These scholars suggested that low IQ increases the likelihood of criminal behavior through its effect on school performance. This argument seems somewhat elementary. Their argument is that a child with a low IQ will perform poorly in school. In turn, this school failure is followed by dropping out. Given the poor school performance, a child is left with very few options (Hirschi & Hindelang, 1977). This ultimately leads to delinquency and adult criminality. Support of this position has been widespread. Furthermore, it is important to note that U.S. prisons and jails are highly populated with inmates who only have an average of eighth-grade education. At the same time, these same inmates at the time of their offense were unemployed.

The second nature-versus-nature study that warrants attention was conducted by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray (1994). In their book The Bell Curve, these scholars suggested individuals with a lower IQ are more likely to commit crime, get caught, and be sent to prison. Importantly, these authors transport the IQ and crime link to another level. Specifically, they suggested that prisons and jails are highly populated with inmates with low IQs; however, what about those criminals who actions go undetected? Through self-reported data, the researchers discovered that these individuals have a lower IQ than the general public. Thus, research concludes those criminal offenders who have been caught and those who have not have an IQ lower than the general population (Herrnstein & Murray, 1994).


The relationship between psychology and criminal behavior is significant. For centuries, scholars have been attempting to explain why someone commits a crime. This research paper examined the role of psychodynamic theory as developed by Sigmund Freud. Included here are the roles of the id, ego, and superego in criminal behavior. This was followed by a discussion of mental disorders and crime. Under examination here were conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder. Through both disorders, we learned that children possess many characteristics associated with delinquency and adult criminality, ultimately concluding that treatment is a necessity and early intervention is paramount.

Discussed next was the role of mental illness and crime. Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are two of the most serious disorders. Research suggests that there is a correlation between individuals with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and delinquency and/or criminal behavior. The second major psychological theory is behaviorism. As previously mentioned, behavioral theory suggests human behavior is fostered through learning experiences. At the forefront of this theory is the premise that individuals change their behavior according to reactions from others. In the real world, there exists the assumption that behavior is reinforced via rewards and eliminated by a negative reaction or punishment. Social learning theory, which is a branch of behavior theory, is the most relevant to criminology. Moreover, the most prominent social learning theorist is Albert Bandura.

The third psychological theory examined is cognition. Here, an importance of mental processes of individuals is examined. A discussion followed on how individuals perceive and mentally represent the world. Furthermore, how do individuals solve problems? Two important subdisciplines examined were Kohlberg’s moral development theory and information-processing theory. Ultimately, we can conclude that criminal offenders are poor at processing information and evaluating the world around them. The next major topics discussed were personality and intelligence. Concerning personality, we learned that personality can be measured via the domains of Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. We learned that Extraversion and Neuroticism are related to criminal behavior. Last, the intelligence debate has existed for centuries, and data demonstrate that individuals with a low IQ are more likely to engage in criminal behavior. Important to the discussion of intelligence and IQ is school performance. Research studies that have examined future delinquency and adult criminality have consistently demonstrated the link between the two. In reality, it is not difficult to understand why a person who fails or drops out of school is limited in his or her career or future options. Occupations that have desirable salaries often require a high school degree as well as a bachelor’s or master’s degree. In sum, when citizens and scholars attempt to understand why people commit a crime, recognition must be given to psychological theories. Not doing so would be a serious error in judgment.


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History and development of criminology



 Criminology as a discipline is the study of crime and the criminal element, its causes, and the suppression and prevention of it. If we look into the history of criminology, we can see how different the ideologies of criminology were from today. Earlier, due to lack of proper laws and codes, punishments did not match the crime. Severe punishments were given for simple crimes which often led to criminals becoming the victim and blood feuds between people which lasted for generations. The early society viewed crime in the context of religion.  Criminal acts were those which offended the gods or God. Here again, violence was sought to respond to the crime.  Then came the philosophies on criminology.Plato was among the first to theorize that crime was often the result of a poor education and that punishments for crimes should be assessed based on their degree of fault. Aristotle developed the idea that responses to crime should attempt to prevent future acts, both by the criminal and by others who may be inclined to commit other crimes. The Code of Hammurabi is one of the earliest, and perhaps the best-known attempts to establish a set punishment scale for crimes. The first society to develop criminal codes, was the Roman Republic. The Romans are widely regarded as the true precursors to the modern legal system, and their influences are still seen today, as the Latin language is preserved in much of the legal terminology. With the spread of Christianity, crime was again related to religion. In contrast to ancient times, where punishments were often carried out to appease the gods, punishments were now carried out in the context of ‘doing God’s work’ to free the criminal of his evilness. But people were taught that Criminals, while deserving of punishment, were also to be pitied, as they had placed themselves outside of God’s grace. Though these ideas were derived from religious studies, these concepts prevail today in our secular views of crime and punishment and have contributed a lot to the development of criminology.